I went to a play about bipolar called In Two Minds at Belltable Theatre in Limerick City on 12 January. Drawn from a true story, it focused on the relationship between a mother with bipolar and her daughter in a caring role, as they lived together for a chaotic 6 weeks. Although the short time period was fictional, everything actually happened at one point or another, for example, the mother’s high and overexcited episodes as well as her low and despairing ones were all very real. Writer, producer and actor Joanne Ryan, also the real-life daughter, realised that her story didn’t have to reflect everyone’s experience to be helpful. More important for her was that the play stimulated a conversation around mental health. Her work inspired me to focus on Balanced Relationships for this month’s blog post.
As mentioned in a previous post entitled Relationship difficulties, I have struggled a lot in this area as a result of my condition. At one point, a disagreement, an uncomfortable silence, or a raw tension tipped me over the edge towards insomnia, anxiety, and extreme moods. Over the course of my recovery, I became to realise that accepting the reality of interpersonal frustrations and smiling like the Buddha were good things to do. Regarding my relationship with mental health professionals, I showed up at their door with open hands in a state of desperation and humility. Some simply did their job and assisted me. Others were ‘helpers’ in the best sense of the word – they respected and treasured my vulnerability which made all the difference to my health and humanity. One helper said to me: “It was an honour and privilege to have collaborated with you”. Continue reading “Balanced relationships”
From Old English ‘mod’ meaning frame of mind, mood is integrally related to our feelings and emotions, which as we know can be stirred up at a moment’s notice. My feelings were stirred up from a recent conversation with a psychotherapist. We were discussing being practitioners in the psycho-spiritual field: I told him that people can be overly-emotional at times, wallowing in their feelings, wallowing in their misery. “Can they not try a different approach?” From his experience, he said there was no such thing as being overly-emotional, that clients can express what they want to express and just let it out.
Our disagreement hit a nerve of mine and I pondered on our thoughts for some length. Another feeling was stirred up when a spiritual companion said it was good to get some distance from our feelings at times such as when we become sad over someone not replying to our emails: if we hold onto these feelings, then this sets us on a trajectory of desolation. “So, what is the truth in all of this?,” I thought. Here we are: me, the psychotherapist, and the spiritual companion with different opinions. Where can we look to for clarity and wisdom? Continue reading “Balanced mood”
As I ponder this month’s topic on Balanced Lifestyle, I recall something important from my time learning how to drive on the roads of Dublin. Whenever I came to a STOP sign on the road, I put my foot on the brakes and repeated to myself: “S…T…O…P.” Then I continued driving on my merry way. In the same vein, this is what I need to do when I come to the STOP signs of my life. I need to respect myself enough to pause at junctures and to move forward with energy and vitality.
These past few weeks have been challenging on my lifestyle as requests for more work have steadily increased. In fact, I was in demand for the first time in my life: to write a booklet on mental health for parishes and to write an article for the British Jesuits. I tried to make the most of a series of reflections on Ireland’s national radio which I had the privilege to present, and I kept to a rigorous 6-day schedule. Eventually, I found myself becoming fatigued and a slave to life – surely not a good sign. I came to a point where I felt like giving everything up. Continue reading “Balanced lifestyle”
Lei Xue, a certified acupuncturist and herbalist, led a Chinese tea ceremony at Chester Beatty Library in Dublin yesterday, and I was one of the lucky ones to go along to it. She told us that when she invites her friends over for a tea ceremony, a space is created so it becomes like a meditation. The colourful clay pot and cups make for a lovely display along with flowers, and sugary foods accompany a sweet oolong tea.
Lei also said that in order to discover the right tea, we first need to be aware of some things about ourselves such as the temperature of our hands and feet which can differ from person to person. When we are more aware of ourselves, we can figure out if it’s a green tea, pu’er tea or black tea that suits us. It is fascinating to ponder that you can seek harmony and balance through your tea. Indeed, it is also fascinating to ponder that you can seek harmony and balance through your thoughts. Continue reading “Balanced thinking”
My summer holiday was unique this year as I didn’t travel across Ireland or go abroad. Instead, I turned off the internet and began to focus on simple things such as going to church, tidying my bedroom, running, and being with my family. I became determined to say “goodbye” to fantasy and the unreal, and to welcome the promptings of an ordinary life. And one day something miraculous happened… I remembered the exact day and date for the first time in ages!
For me, being ordinary means that I don’t intend to be a star in any way. And what is wrong with that?! While eating dinner with my family in the evenings, I began to nurture this desire. As the conversation developed, I used the ‘granny test’: if my granny Una could understand what I was saying, then everyone else could too. I enjoyed talking about the news and craic of the world more than usual, as I wasn’t looking to be the smartest person in the room. Not wanting to stand out in any way relieved me of the usual social pressures I put on myself. I wasn’t pretending to be small; I was just more aware of my place. Continue reading “The wonderful ordinary”
I was intrigued to find out this week that the word desire may well derive from a sense of being cut off from the stars (sidus – star in Latin), from remote things that are simply not attainable. In my own experience, my deepest desires have certainly seemed remote at times and I have plunged into despair. Now, by looking at my concrete realities, I’m realising that what I really want is actually within my reach. I am learning that I need to place my feet firmly on the ground in order to wish, long, and yearn.
What the heart wants
Blogger Michele Campbell reminded me that my deepest desires were put deep within my heart so I wouldn’t lose them. What a wonderful thought and how grateful I feel when pondering it. Beautiful desires are actually accessible and ready to be found if I only look to my heart. Once again, I stop gazing at the stars and instead listen to what I really want in life. I want to promote the psycho-spiritual needs of the general public through blogging, journalism, and doing a masters in applied spirituality. I want to work towards the more universal good and make a contribution. Continue reading “Heat of desire”
The spiritual path is one of many twists and turns. Much of our journeys involve going through unknown territory and we learn to be okay with this. One characteristic that defines spiritual maturity is gratitude for the many gifts that we have been given in our ordinary realities and relationships. And this brings us to an important concept.
“Thankful in all things” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
To be thankful in all things, we really must begin with the basics – thankful for a tea and chat with a friend, for a unique sunset, and for a gentle breeze. I am thankful for my faith, interest in psychology and spirituality, my girlfriend, accommodation, and career. But I am well aware that I am far from being thankful in all things. In my low mood, for example, I find it hard to be thankful for anything in my life. It all just seems too much and there is a pull towards an overly-internalised world which stretches away from reality. I need to look elsewhere for inspiration. Continue reading “Gratitude”